PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With treacherous winter weather expected over the next few days in the region, Multnomah County declared a state of emergency beginning Tuesday night and will open 4 severe weather shelters Wednesday.

The locations of the shelters will be announced early Wednesday on the Multnomah County When It’s Cold page, officials said. The shelters will open at 8 p.m. and stay open “as long as conditions require.”

“(Wednesday) is still going to be relatively warm but it’s going to start getting colder basically all day,” said Multnomah County Emergency Management Director Chris Voss. “So (Wednesday) evening we’re really going to see the temperatures drop.”

Multnomah County officials said the sites will be accessible for people with disabilities and be pet-friendly.

“It’s not just cots and blankets. It’s everything from toiletries to medical kits,” he told KOIN 6 News. “We want you to bring your pets, too, so we have pet supplies, too.”

Transportation to a warming shelter will be free through TriMet or by calling 211.

The shelters will be staffed with medical and behavioral health personnel. The county is also calling on general staff who can step up to volunteer with feeding and managing the warming shelters.

“We have contractors, as well, that we sometimes utilize. But sometimes they can’t staff all of the locations that we think we need so we reach out for county staff to support us, as well as city staff,” he said.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is also expected to declare a state of emergency to begin Tuesday night.

Home Heating Tips

HVAC companies in the area said their phones are ringing from customers with questions about their home heaters during this winter storm.

The first tip: turn your heater on. A survey from Zaba showed 14% of Oregonians will wait to turn on their heater until it’s nearly freezing outside.

While that may save money, it also means your furnace has just been sitting around. When extreme cold hits, heaters and equipment can be stressed out because the cold is harder on their parts. Heaters will probably kick on more than they usually do.

Most people can check their air filter relatively easily. If you haven’t, it’s a good idea to do it now.

But most problems come without a lot of warning.

“If you’re worried about it, I’d be firing it up right now because we have a couple days before the real cold is going to hit,” said Tyson Friedrich, the general manager at A-Temp Heating Cooling & Electrical.

Friedrich said they are already busy. But once the temperatures drop — if past years are an indication — that’s when the true rush will come.

He thinks it’s likely some people may not get problem addresses on the same day, so people should be prepared for that, too.

PBOT crews already on the streets

If the Portland metro region gets the sleet and ice that’s expected, transportation officials warn people not to drive unless it’s absolutely essential.

PBOT crews hit the roads overnight and sprayed nearly 3000 gallons of de-icer on city streets. Agency officials want people to know they do not treat every street in Portland and focus first on emergency routes.

PBOT’s Hannah Schafer said the transportation crews are “the first responders for the first responders. Our goal is to make sure that our roads are passable for firefighters, ambulances, police officers so that they can get out there and do their jobs to keep Portlanders safe.”

When motorists stay off the roads during severe weather, it helps PBOT crews keep them clear and safer for those who absolutely must travel.

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ODOT officials also told KOIN 6 News they have crews treating roads in the Columbia River Gorge and they will continuously monitor roads and close them off if and when they become too dangerous.

They also remind drivers that if you’re not familiar with an area, don’t blindly trust your GPS or take detours. There are live pictures of the road or highway on TripCheck.

Portland International Airport

The holiday travel mode is in full effect at PDX. Between now and the end of the year, more than a half-million travelers will move through Portland International Airport.

Travelers check in at Portland International Airport on Nov. 23, 2021. Officials say the week of Thanksgiving is the busiest travel times (KOIN).

Passengers with Thursday and Friday flights are understandably worried about delays and cancellations. But PDX spokesperson Kama Simonds told KOIN 6 News the airport is prepared to do its part in preventing those by keeping runways de-iced.

“Our process, when we have weather forecasted like we’re seeing for the end of this week, we start sort of circling up the teams,” Simonds said. “We get ourselves prepared to staff a 24/7 operation, and that often means making sure that there’s enough people to work 12- hour rotating shifts.”

Check your flights before you head to the airport — FlyPDX

KOIN 6 News will have more information soon.